Oct 27, 2012

The Wonder Years

The powerful gay ally Fred Savage, who has performed gay characters in Crumbs and directed gay-friendly Ugly Betty, Modern Family, Wizards of Waverly Place, Even Stevensand Greek, got his start in a heterosexist "family friendly" vehicle.

Aside from Married...with Children, Roseanne, and maybe The Hogan Family, nuclear family sitcoms in the late 1989s and 1990s were dismally heterosexist, with not even a "gay friend comes out" episode to relieve the monotony of "Look, all boys are obsessed with girls!"  The Wonder Years (1988-93) was the flagship of a Wednesday-night lineup that included the awful Growing Pains and Doogie Houser, so I didn't watch often.

Its gimmick: it takes place in the 1960s, exactly twenty years before, with an adult Kevin Arnold (voiced by Daniel Stern) narrating: "I didn't know it then, but things had changed between me and my brother."  By setting the program in the past, you can ignore contemporary concerns, like gay people.  There were none.








Kevin (Fred Savage) had a bullying older brother, Wayne (Jason Hervey, left, previously of  The Monster Squad ), an obnoxious older sister, Karen (Olivia D'Abo) and -- though he was only 12 years old at the beginning of the series, a girlfriend named Winnie (Danica McKellar).










Fred Savage was already playing girl-crazy preteens in Little Monsters (1989) and The Wizard (1989), and here, he goes through the whole gamut of dating, first kiss, second kiss, breakup and reconciliation, until the whole series becomes a heterosexual rite of passage, a sitcom version of Summer of 42 ("In Every Man's Life, there is a Summer of '42").









The epilogue reveals that Kevin didn't marry Winnie, but he did marry a woman.  As the adult Kevin concludes his story, his 10-year old son approaches to ask him to "play catch" outside.  His heterosexual destiny has reached its fulfillment in reproduction, and, to boot, his son is "all boy," a masculine stereotype, as if to reiterate that no gay people exist.

Kevin does have a best friend, Paul (Josh Saviano), but he is just as hetero-horny, losing his virginity to a girl in one episode, and they are hardly devoted to each other.  They are buddies without buddy-bonding.

There are also a few dreamy guys hanging around (such as Josh Blake of Alf) for the heterosexual girls and gay boys to gaze at.











How did Fred Savage get from Wonder Years to gay friendly?  It was a long, strange trip.